Sunday, 23 September 2018

David Shorey, and a very special flute.

All of us involved in the world of the antique flute were deeply saddened to hear, in February 2015 of the death of David Shorey. As someone who knew him and his wife Nina, I wanted to share one of many great experiences I had with them in his memory.

In 1986 I made a visit to the US on flute related business. At that stage I had only been making flutes for 6 years or so and I was hoping to make some contacts that might prove useful.
I had two main contacts to follow up. The first was an introduction to Brannen Bros. in Boston, which I seem to remember that Eugene Lambe organised.
The second was a contact for someone called David Shorey that Sam Murray had told me about, and about whom I knew very little except that he had been curator of the Dayton C. Miller collection in the Library of Congress, and that was good enough for me, particularly as one the major aims of the trip was to visit the DCM and do some hands-on research.
At that stage David and his wife Nina were living in a small place in northern Maine called Bowdoinham, where apart from his flute work...at that stage he was dealing in antique flutes... he was also trying to start a business making house boats, which were one of his life long passions.
I hired a car in Boston and drove up, through mile after mile of woods which were just beginning to show their autumn glory.
I spent a wonderful few days there, immersed in flute lore with David and Nina, and over the years had intermittent contact with them.
Then, in or around 2009, when I was curating a private flute collection in Ireland, we began a more constant correspondence, since I was at that stage buying quite a few flutes at auction, and he was, as usual, extremely generous in sharing his knowledge and expertise.
Then, in 2009, a large collection of flutes came up for auction in Bath, and the auctioneers invited me to preview the collection before it was catalogued, since I had bought quite a few instruments from them in the past. This collection, although large, was disappointing in that many of the flutes were in very poor, unrestored condition. There were some interesting items though, including some flutes that I'd read about but had never seen, such as a Pask cone bore 8 keyed flute made entirely in silver, with raised finger holes...similar to this one in the Yale collection.

Although I was primarily interested in the 8 key flutes, there was a Boehm system flute by Louis Lot which caught my attention, more due the fact that the head of the flute was cased separately from the body and foot, than any thing else.
Knowing that David was one of the go-to experts on Lot, I began to talk to him about this flute, and he excitedly began to research it.
Eventually, I did bid on the flute ( the two items were the one lot, if not the one Lot ) and managed to get it... for considerably more than I had ever paid for a flute before, but not as much as it might have been expected to go for, given that it was one of the very earliest flutes from the Lot workshop.
I think, (and this was confirmed to me later) that some other interested parties shied away from it on the basis of it's "two part" provenance. The flute was #186 and the head #136, and it was mooted that perhaps the engraver who numbered the head, misread the no. on the body as 136...an interesting conjecture, but probably only that.
Almost immediately I got calls from people offering me a small profit on what I had paid for it, but to cut a long story short, I quickly decided to let David handle the sale, as this was an area of which I knew very little.
I sent the flute to David in May 2009, and in October of that year got word that he had a buyer for the flute, and the sale was completed shortly afterwards. Like many collectors, I bought this flute in the hope that its sale would help finance my other purchases. In this case it financed all the flutes that I've bought, before or since. Sometimes luck smiles on you...
As part of his work, David compiled an extremely detailed account of the flute, it's history, and it's restoration which, with Nina's permission you'll find here.
I hope you'll find it interesting.


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